Sitting in the 8:30pm sun of Fort McMurray reading e-mails, I saw this one from my son, who is in the U.S. Navy station in the Pentagon in Washington, DC–he states: “Interesting…maybe it will change the course and purpose of the war!”
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
A few searches and we find umpteen news items on this same finding. Also I recall blogging about this earlier this year at this link. In that blog posting I noted the following;
This [blog posting and a] question is prompted by a report that reads in part:
“In this Taliban stronghold in the mountains south of Kabul, the U.S. Army is providing the security that will enable China to exploit one of the world’s largest unexploited deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its voracious appetite for raw materials. U.S. troops set up bases last month along a dirt track that a Chinese firm is paving as part of a $3 billion project to gain access to the Aynak copper reserves. The U.S. deployment wasn’t intended to protect the Chinese investment — the largest in Afghanistan’s history — but to strangle Taliban infiltration into the capital of Kabul. But if the mission provides the security that a project to revive Afghanistan’s economy needs, the synergy will be welcome.”
On which I made this sarcastic comment:
The very idea that US troops are being deployed (inadvertently it is true) to make it possible for the Chinese to mine copper, is outlandish. That men and women of America stand to loose their lives so the Chinese may move in under the protection of Karzai and the Taliban and grow rich wresting copper from the reported huge reserves in Afghanistan, leaves me cold.
Now, today the US has awoken up to the fact that there are ore bodies in Afghanistan. About time. The Chinese have been aware of this for some time and appear to be active already. I suppose we should be happy that the US has come out of a slumber of unimagination and failure to see what the Chinese have already seen and exploited.
There is no doubt that if the U.S. and Canada get going and get government support, they may be able to outdo, should we say outmine, the Chinese. But I wonder. Canadians are timid because of the threat of Bill C-300. U.S. mining companies are worried about attacks by environmentalists. Australians are reticent to act for fear of higher taxes. Maybe only the Chinese have the system and culture to do it.
Which leaves one wondering: why not encourage the Chinese to take over the Afghanistan peace-keeping efforts in return for free reign in developing the mines of a future rich Afghanistan. I venture to suggest the Chinese would do a better job at “peace-keeping” in Afghanistan than any other nation. And they would probably do a better job at mining in that harsh and dangerous place than the soft-minded west.
Another fascinating question that probably would have to be debated ad infinitum in the U.S. is this: should we try to reduce production of drugs by encouraging mining in Afghanistan? Afterall, drug production is almost organic, an agricultural activity as worst. Whereas mining is……well you have seen and heard it all: environmentally destructive, etc.
It is a fascinating choice: Drugs or ore. Poppy growing or mining. Agriculturalists or miners. U.S. private corporations or Chinese government puppets. The comparisons are stark, and the choices hard.
Shows how stupid and desperate the U.S. effort in Afghanistan has become that we are reduced to such silly choices. Almost as bad as having to choose between Obama and a turn-coat McCain. Or between Obama and Mitt Romney. Or Hillary versus Sarah Palin. As an aside on this: how sad that John McCain could resist the bullying of the Vietnamese, yet is easy prey to the bullying of the Arizona Republicans. Or has he become a coward in his dotage?
I would suggest that the U.S. tea-party folk debate the issue of mining versus growing drugs versus fighting and dying in Afghanistan. If they can do this intelligently and come up with a practical answer, they have a place in the national debate; if not they should shut up and give us all a break from their tired and timid anti-everything rhetoric.
Or maybe the SME can stop worrying about what I write in this blog and concentrate on mining issues of true significance to the nation. Surely that is what a national society of mining engineers should be about. Rather than competing with private industry and attacking bloggers.
I personally am pessimistic. I fear the U.S. will loose out on this opportunity. I fear the Chinese will beat the west with single-minded focus. I fear we will bog down in tea parties of both the Republican kind and the Alice-in-Wonderland kind. I see Johnny Depp and Helen Bonaham Carter riding to victory in America while the Chinese ride to riches in Afghanistan. I see here a clash of culture with the socialist winning over democracy. And maybe there is no harm therein, if we can get out of the mess of an ungovernable nation. The British failed more than 100 years ago. Maybe we should admit we cannot succeed where no other nation has, and get out with honor and mining certificates. Or leagalize drugs and stop mining!